Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Frankenhorse, Great Expectations and other stories


 after... no, it's not just you, there's no visible difference aside from the direction of the light

My sister apparently has taken to calling Starbuck "Frankenhorse" for her freakish appearance - and indeed lately she does look like two or even more horses kind of haphazardly thrown together.  She's probably shed about 50% of her winter coat, mostly from her head, neck and legs, so there she's fairly uniformly shiny black or at least very dark brown.  But her torso, chest and hindquarters still retain large splotches of thick, fuzzy brown and yellowish winter fur.  Here are some more photos I took before and after giving her a bath in the hopes of getting her to shed a little quicker, quite obviously it didn't work since there's no noticeable difference between the before and after pics.  She does seem less itchy though so that's a step in the right direction.


I love this time of year, it's not unlike very very slowly unwrapping a present (if wrapping paper were made of fur and caused allergies) - as over the course of a month or so my fluffy yellowish stuffed animal horse turns into a sleek, shiny black steed (and then promptly turns yellow again).  And if all goes well this year and we can manage to not destroy the flysheet before Summer's over, maybe we can even avoid the sores and bald spots from all the itching.  Speaking of the flysheet, I agreed this weekend with Marina that she's going to go ahead and start putting the sheet on her every morning and I'll take it off in the evenings - I know it's early but there are already a fair amount of flies and Starbuck already has several itchy flybites.  If I leave it until any later she'll end up scratching the flysheet to pieces.  She totally looks like a horse from outer space in her fly gear, I'm glad she seems to have no idea of how bizarre she looks in it because she doesn't seem to mind wearing it at all.  Maybe with the light color it reflects heat and she'll actually be cooler, or at least stay dark longer.  I can only hope.

On another tack, my dad e-mailed me a very intuitive comment about my previous post where he reminded me that I tend to have elevated expectations and get nervous and wound up and suggested that by not feeling 100% and only riding because I really wanted to, I was actually more relaxed than usual and that Starbuck had picked up on that and was correspondingly more relaxed as well.  I think I proved him right again on Saturday - I had a pretty good lesson on Wednesday, Thursday I didn't go to the stable (Thursday's my CSA day) although my friend Lola rode Starbuck and Friday I got tied up at work and only had time to run by the stable and give Starbuck a good rubdown for about 30 minutes before I had to go home.  So I was really looking forward to riding Starbuck on Saturday, especially since the weather was wonderful - about 65º, sunny and hardly any wind.  I blissfully tacked her up, mounted up and rode breezily into the arena and started warming up.  UNTIL. WE GOT. NEAR. THE. TRACTOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Someone had lifted the hood of the tractor and LEFT! IT!! UP!!!!  Turning an unassuming piece of farm machinery we've ridden by nearly every day for the past three years into A HUGE HORSE-EATING MONSTER!!!


Nearly all of the rest of the class was spent either recovering from full fledged spooks (i.e. working on our "walk to extended gallop to walk" transitions) or attempting to avoid them in the first place by trying to keep my seat relaxed but my aids businesslike.  And after the umpteenth time she stumbled over a trotting pole and nearly went to her knees because she was paying more attention to the tractor than where she was going, I lost it.  Too much frustration, too much trying to relax my body when my mind was wound to the breaking point... I honestly broke down crying in the middle of the class and had to take a time out while I sobbed into her mane for a minute.  I was really really close to giving up and walking out of the class, but knew how much I would regret it later and decided just to finish the class no matter how badly I rode or how crazily she acted.  I was so emotionally exhausted I just didn't care as long as I could finish the class.  So I got in line after the rest of the horses in the class and what do you know?  After one or two "token spooks" she settled down and started working normally, and spent the last 10 or 15 minutes of the class with hardly any silliness.

So obviously there's a pattern here - I think when I set the bar too high maybe I overface her.  So something to focus on over the next few rides is to make a concious decision before mounting up to not try so hard and to accept whatever she's willing and able to offer up that day.  And as a matter of fact yesterday I decided she was so skittish and I was so exhausted from Saturday's catharsis that I decided to ride her in the roundpen to work on some "seat building" exercises, and it ended up being one of the most positive things I could have possibly planned.  I was able to ride her without using my hands at all to work again on balance like I did that day with Marina, to work without stirrups and to do some trotting with my eyes closed, and she was able to practice walking, trotting and cantering without me having to constantly urge her on.  And once again, cantering around in circles with my arms out like airplane wings and slowing her to a trot, then a walk and then a full stop with my seat alone, I was able to feel like my goal of us being able to work together seamlessly isn't so far off after all.

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